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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tracks Drawing Files Instantly with Adept Document Management & Workflow Software. Synergis Software.

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Case Study

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tracks Drawing Files Instantly with Adept Document Management & Workflow Software

Case Study

Agency Saves Days Searching for Files with Adept

The Delaware River, a major shipping conduit in the Northeast United States, requires a channel that is 45 feet. Over time, sediments are deposited on the river bottom, making the channel shallower. Today, the river is maintained at the authorized depth of 40 feet, and it is maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

The USACE ( are considered “the nation’s engineers,” with a rich legacy predating the Declaration of Independence. They plan, design, build and manage a wide variety of projects for national, economic and environmental security. They are the world’s premier engineering organization, with more than 37,000 dedicated professionals in technical centers and regional and field offices nationwide.

The USACE builds facilities for the Army and Air Force, dredges harbors and waterways for navigation, provides flood and coastal protection for supply water, power and public recreation, protects and restores wetlands and other natural resources, and supports other government agencies with engineering, contracting and project management services.

The Philadelphia District

The Corps’ Philadelphia District was established in 1866. As part of the North Atlantic Division team, its highly skilled work force of more than 500 people include engineers and technicians, biologists and other natural scientists, economists, accountants, attorneys, planners, contract specialists, project managers, dam operators, park rangers, and the officers and crew of the McFarland dredge.

The Philadelphia District manages the water resources of the 13,000-square-mile Delaware River Basin and of the Atlantic coast from New Jersey’s Manasquan Inlet to the southern boundary of Delaware. To maintain the navigable depth of the Delaware River, the USACE Philadelphia District surveys it 5 to 7 times per year, mapping the river’s main channel and dredging it when dirt begins to fill it in.

Delaware River Main Channel Deepening Project

A recent project called for deepening the existing Delaware River Federal Navigation Channel from 40 to 45 feet, widening bends where necessary, partially deepening the Marcus Hook anchorage, and relocating and adding navigation aids. Dredged material would be placed by hydraulic and hopper dredges in confined upland disposal areas in the Delaware River portion of the project and for beneficial uses in Delaware Bay.

The project area is located within the Delaware Estuary and borders Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. It extends over 100 miles of the Delaware River from Philadelphia Harbor, Pennsylvania and Beckett Street Terminal in Camden, New Jersey to the mouth of the Delaware Bay.

Two groups within the USACE’s Philadelphia District are working together on dredging the Delaware River channel. The Design Branch of USACE’s Engineering and Construction Division collaborated in the preparation of the reconnaissance and feasibility reports for the Delaware River Channel Deepening project. The Survey Branch of USACEís Operations Department collected data based on the authorized channel alignment and dimensions.

Then the Design Branch prepared plans and specifications for the authorized channel. This process involves accessing older drawings and generating new ones. But how does the USACE maintain control over the wealth of drawings that have been created over the years?

Survey Department Maintains 66,000 Files in Adept Document Management & Workflow

The USACE stores historical records of its surveying and mapping and upon request distributes drawings and data to other engineers, survey firms and individuals who reside along the rivers. Oftentimes, environmentalists and archaeologists request a history of the drawings as well.

Until 1988, fulfilling document requests by the USACE Philadelphia District was slow and cumbersome. First, the USACE needed to locate the file. Historically the drawings were stored on paper, and finding the right one took time. To further complicate matters, all drawings created since the 1960’s were stored on aperture cards, which required 35 mm viewers to search for the documents. Once the aperture card was located it had to be sent out to have a print made. Finally, a copy was sent to the person requesting the drawing file.

In 1988, the Philadelphia District, (Survey Branch and Design Branch) made a strategic shift in the way they managed their documents. To reduce the amount of time spent finding and distributing drawings, the Philadelphia District teamed with Synergis Software. Thanks to Synergis Software’s extensive experience with document management, specializing in engineering documents, Synergis Software and USACE Philadelphia District worked together to create efficient processes to track the large body of existing drawings on paper and aperture cards. These processes were implemented using Adept document management software. The Philadelphia District acquired 33 licenses of Adept; the Engineering and Construction Division has 27 licenses; and the Operations Division has six.

Existing hard copy documents needed to be managed along with the more recent electronic ones. To gain control over existing documents, USACE Philadelphia District contracted with Synergis Software to scan the 66,000 paper drawings and aperture cards into electronic format so they could be located quickly on computer. In addition to the older drawings, Adept tracks newer drawings, all of which are being created by computer aided design software, AutoCAD and AutoCAD Map from Autodesk, Inc.

“The time savings are unbelievable. We can obtain information instantaneously and provide drawings of anything we have done since the 1960s,” said George Griffith, engineering technician for the Survey Department, Operations Division in the Philadelphia District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Now the USACE has a growing database of new documents as well as a historical record of older ones and can quickly and easily provide current and historical copies to professionals involved in the Delaware River project. To find documents, USACE engineers no longer need to search among file cabinets and aperture cards. Today they simply enter the query into Adept and send the file to the plotter for a hard copy printout.

Engineering Department Locates Files in Minutes

“The software was selected for its ability to copy the file from server to client, lock files, Check out drawings, and let all users know who has a drawing. We can search the library to locate a drawing based on user-defined fields, such as user name, contract number, project, and so on,” said L. Alfredo Montes, civil engineer in the Design Branch, Engineering and Construction Division, in the Philadelphia District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “Previously, it took one or two days to search for a hard copy of a file if it was in our local office. With the click of a button we are able to access a file, regardless of its location, within five minutes.”

The Engineering and Construction Division has set up its libraries for ease of filing and searching. The drawings are signed in or out on a daily basis. The files, which can be created in almost any file format such as AutoCAD, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and others can be viewed by individuals who do not have the native software that generated the file. Any authorized user who needs the file can access it, edit it or copy it for use on another project. In addition to needing documents for editing, CAD technicians, engineers and managers routinely access drawings to estimate the cost of a particular project.

Project Status

Since FY 1999, Congress has appropriated funds to initiate project construction for the deepening of the Delaware River main channel. Construction has not been initiated as appropriate permits must be obtained from the State of Delaware and a Project Cooperation Agreement must be executed with the project sponsor, Delaware River Port Authority. During the entire process, Adept is serving as a valuable tool to provide instant access to data for USACE and other professionals involved in the project.